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Unemployment of Engineering Graduates: the Key Issues Martin Pennington Martin Pennington Consulting Project funded by the National HE STEM Programme Project.

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Presentation on theme: "Unemployment of Engineering Graduates: the Key Issues Martin Pennington Martin Pennington Consulting Project funded by the National HE STEM Programme Project."— Presentation transcript:

1 Unemployment of Engineering Graduates: the Key Issues Martin Pennington Martin Pennington Consulting Project funded by the National HE STEM Programme Project partners: Aston University University of Birmingham Coventry University University of Leicester (project lead: Professor Helen Atkinson) Loughborough University

2 Basic research question Engineering employers say publicly that they need more engineering graduates although there is a national unemployment rate of 13% (HESA published figures: July 2010) Why do certain students not get graduate level work within six months of graduation?

3 Potential reasons for unemployment Students put off looking for a graduate level job until after graduation Academic and personal skills/attributes Mismatch between jobs sought and skills/attributes Wanting a job in a particular region of the country where there are few engineering jobs Graduating in a branch of engineering where there is currently a downturn Set out to gather qualitative evidence from recent graduates

4 Methodology Interviewed 2010 and 2011 engineering graduates from partner universities who were unemployed at the time of the annual DLHE survey (66) Small comparator group of employed graduates (12) Identified common themes from interviews Interviewed employers (large and small) to find out why graduates do not succeed in the recruitment process (19) Identified 10 key conclusions for action by universities

5 Demographics: interviews with unemployed graduates (66) Slight over-representation of Chemical Eng and under-representative of Electrical/Electronic Eng Degree class: proportions almost match national stats (slightly fewer 1sts but more 2:1s) Slight over-representation of females and non- whites but sample too small to draw conclusions 15 of the 66 now in graduate engineering posts; 22 still unemployed

6 Findings: unemployed graduates About half wanted to stay in a particular region Starting salary expectations were realistic Half had waited until after graduation before applying (hence had missed the boat for that year) Of those who did apply in their final year, most had made fewer than 10 applications Very few of those who had applied had reached the assessment centre stage A third had done a years work placement Nearly a quarter had no work experience at all

7 Findings: unemployed graduates Many had not been involved in either Students Union or voluntary activities A third recalled no careers input into course/curriculum Careers input most useful when linked to: securing a placement; practical advice on CV/applications/interview Prefer compulsory input as have to do it and prior to final year when too busy Three-quarters had used the careers service and found it helpful although a few expressed concerns about its generic nature Some evidence that not all comprehended the full range of careers service provision available

8 Findings: unemployed graduates views of their difficulties External factors: state of economy competition for jobs number of graduates lack of opportunities Factors under own control: degree class or type (e.g. not having MEng) lateness in applying application forms especially competence-based questions coping with interviews/ aptitude tests limitations on job choice or location Most common single factor cited was lack of work experience

9 Findings: unemployed graduates felt universities could provide more help with Between a third and a half felt universities provided enough help already; it was up to students to take advantage of it BUT: Encourage/push students to take up placements More CV/application/psychometric test/interview/ assessment centre advice tailored specifically to needs of engineering students Careers/employability input specifically timetabled (e.g. final year module on effective job seeking) Greater employer involvement in curriculum with employer contacts and networks More awareness of careers service and ensuring it is adequately resourced (long wait for appointments)

10 Findings: graduates advice to current engineering students Obtain work experience Start early: thinking about careers and making applications Use institutional support especially the careers service Get experience for the CV Get a good degree Don t give up

11 Findings: employers views Importance of academic qualifications: 2:1 minimum (plus at least 300 UCAS points for some) Importance of MEng rather than BEng for some employers Importance of work experience (particularly in engineering rather than catering or retail) Importance of extra-curricular activities as evidence of skills, wider perspective and get up and go

12 Findings: employers views Skills sought (but not always found): LeadershipTeam working Analysis/problem-solving Communication/interpersonal skillsCreativity/innovation Planning/organisingPerformance Business understanding/commercial awareness Importance of the ability to apply technical skills/knowledge in business context Mobility important especially for larger employers and leadership roles Some felt that they were competing with better-paid and higher profile industries e.g. finance

13 Rejections at first stage: applications and CVs Poor spelling, grammar, punctuation, attention to detail Poor responses to the competence questions Cutting and pasting materials from company s own website Lack of enthusiasm/interest shown on application form Not making effort to tailor application or show knowledge/understanding of company

14 Rejections at second stage: screening/telephone interviews Failure to live up to impression created by application form or inability to add to this in the interview Brevity and/or lack of detail in responses Lack of enthusiasm for company or post

15 Rejections at assessment centre stage: activities Not contributing to/dominating group discussions Not able to listen and challenge others to defend their opinions sensitively and seek consensus Presentations inadequately prepared with incoherent cases, confusing content with clarity, or just too long Failure to review evidence properly and present recommendations based on this

16 Rejections at assessment centre stage: interviews Poor interview technique: lack of preparation for questions about motivation or how they have gained skills sought Lack of research into/knowledge of company Low confidence and unwillingness to sell themselves or to reveal personality at interview Inability to appreciate the potential contributions made by other engineering disciplines to their own area (e.g. electrical systems in mechanical environments)

17 Rejection at assessment centre stage: interviews (cont d) Lack of commercial knowledge and experience (importance of the bottom line ) Over reliance on computers for calculations – unable to do paper calculations to confirm computer work Most seriously, inability to apply basic engineering principles and concepts to everyday work situations e.g. A turbine blade … What is it made of? … What are its properties? … How might it be used?

18 Conclusions Unemployment does not correlate with degree class Correlation between graduates work experience and their employment outcomes Employers value mobility whilst graduates exhibit preferences for location Scope for earlier careers input into curriculum and collaboration with careers services Graduates stress the need to begin career planning earlier Employers report difficulties in certain disciplines and highlight competition from other industries Graduates fail to communicate effectively with employers during selection process Graduates unable to translate theory into practice

19 Project outcomes Student Guide: employers views on engineering graduates Report to House of Lords Science and Technology Sub-Committee for the Inquiry into Higher Education in STEM Subjects Presentation to Engineering Professors Council Annual Congress, April 2012 (Leicester)

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